About hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause inflammation, damage or cancer of the liver.
There is no cure for hepatitis B. Most people who get sick with hepatitis B will get well. However, about 10 per cent of infected people will have the virus for life and can keep infecting other people. Therefore, it is important to get immunized to prevent hepatitis B.
How the disease spreads
Hepatitis B is contagious. The virus can spread through:
- Contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person
- Unprotected sexual contact (most common way in Canada)
- Body/ear piercing or tattooing with infected equipment
- Sharing used needles
- An infected mother passing it to her baby at birth
- Saliva in a bite wound with broken skin
Some symptoms of hepatitis B include:
- Jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
- Loss of appetite
However, some people (especially children) might not have symptoms and can infect others without knowing it.
Vaccinating your child
You should vaccinate your child because:
- The hepatitis B vaccine works very well. Two doses will protect 98 per cent or more of youth aged 11 - 15.
- Teenagers are more likely to try activities that increase the risk of infection. This is why it is important that youth get the vaccine before this stage.
- They might need this vaccine to go to college or university, or to work in certain types of jobs.
- In some countries, the risk of getting hepatitis B is higher. The vaccine will provide protection against hepatitis B if your child travels to these countries.
Who should not get the vaccine
Students should see their doctor for possible vaccination if they have:
- A history of a bad reaction after getting a vaccine
- An allergy to yeast protein
- A confirmed latex allergy
Deciding not to get vaccinated
The hepatitis B vaccine is not required by law to attend school. However, your student could be at risk of getting hepatitis B if you decide not to vaccinate.